As the wife of an anesthesia attending, I know medical school is quite an experience and everyone has their own unique journey. I also know that getting to fourth year can be often be a challenge. We have had our share of the good, bad and ugly life experiences. Medical school for sure was a tough road for us. Leading up to fourth year all of our struggles have come from trying to balance school, work & home life. Here I have a few tips to help you survive fourth year!
Tip 1: Budget, Budget, Budget- At this point you should have your bills and loan money down to a science. Fourth year was one of our most expensive years in my husband’s medical school journey. There are so many extra costs that you need to account for, such as residency application cost, travel (gas, car rental, hotel, food, etc) cost to and from interviews (unless your one of the lucky ones who applies to a place that does virtual interviews), cost of living for audition rotations, don’t forget to budget extra for some interview outfits. You will also want to set some money aside to afford to move to your residency program location as well! If you need some extra cash look into private loans for residency and relocation. These loans were made for medical students preparing to transition to residency.
Tip 2: The Application Process- Applying to residency programs is stressful and the amount of programs in each field of medicine can be overwhelming. Be sure to give your loved one some grace during this time. They have spent the past three years leading up to this moment so the stress can definitely feel overwhelming at times. If you are moving with them on the next phase (residency) then be sure to be included in the process of making a list together. We narrowed down our list to places that we could see ourself living, places we could afford to live and places where our family would be happy. For some you may want to be closer to family and loved ones, some may want to live close to a beach, lake, desert, or mountains. We also made sure all the places we applied were affordable for our budget. Residence pay is more than what you have lived on in medical school but still may be considered low income depending on what part of the country you chose to live in.
Tip 3: Interviews- As the interviews start to roll in, the excitement starts to build… things are finally happening! During this time my best advice is to be supportive, listen, offer feedback when possible, be honest with your feelings on programs or places that you like or don’t like. But most of all remind them to be themselves! This is the one chance your loved one has to add that “wow” factor and impress programs. They will want to prepare ahead of time what may set them apart from other candidates. I will tell you that some programs look strictly at scores and achievements, while others are looking at who will be a good fit at their program. If the interview is in person, be sure to encourage them to attend the residency dinner the night before the interview (this may be in person or virtual depending on the residency program). This is a great time for them to get to know the program and the potential future co residents. Also, they can ask questions like what is the program hours like, does anyone have families and how much call will there be the first year. Some programs will also invite you to join along if you are in town as well. Make sure your loved one gets a good nights rest to prepare for interview day. So if it is in person or virtual be sure to be yourself and show the program why you will be a good fit!
Tip 4: Audition Rotations- Audition rotations are tough! If you are like us and have a family than audition rotations will be the most challenging part of this med school experience. I tried to prepare myself and our kids for audition rotations but it was still way harder than expected. For weeks I was a solo parent and it was lonely and depressing at times. For my husband it was overwhelming and stressful to feel like he had to be the perfect student at all times. Just like me he felt lonely and depressed to come home to an apartment far away from his family. The best advice I can give you is that it’s temporary and make sure you try and spend quality time before and after they return…. also, thank goodness for FaceTime (such a blessing)!
Tip 5: Back up Plan– Be patient but have a plan b! As interviews start to roll in, it can be exciting but nerve wracking. If your loved one is trying to match to a competitive program it really does come down to numbers. They will want to get as many interviews as possible because that means they will have more chances of ranking into a program of their interest. However, it is always best to have a backup plan and it is better now to get the ball rolling than to have to do it in a rush and scramble aka SOAP.
Tip 6: Create a Match List- While this may seem like the easiest part of your med school adventure it can get quite complicated. We have found that creating a spreadsheet with pros and cons for each program that you interview at worked best for us. Another idea is to bring an index card to each interview or keep notes in your phone, so you can write down all the programs pros and cons while they are still fresh in your brain. Remember that your list will be ranked in that order so be sure to rank each program from favorite to least favorite program. Ranking our list was so incredibly difficult because we were so split between the North and the South. We loved a program in the south (This is where we matched!) but all of our friends and family live in the North. Sometimes your rank list needs to be between you and your loved one and what really matters to the both of you since it is going to affect where you will be living for the next few years.
Tip 7: Love Letters- Don’t be afraid to send letters of interest! If your loved one really wants a program, tell them! Remember that you and your loved one have the upper hand in the match when it comes to ranking but programs do like to hear that your loved one wants to go to their program. I don’t recommend doing this to every program they apply to, because programs do talk to one another and word does get around. Also, If your loved one really wants a program, don’t be afraid to have them reach out to their schools staff, mentor or any physician that could write them an additional letter of recommendation.
Tip 8: Relax- Enjoy the last few months of medical school! Once your loved one submits that rank list there is no reason to stress… well, until Match Day. If you are like me and you are too excited about the new adventure you are about to embark on, put that time to good use and start packing! For packing tips, check out my article 7 Fabulous Moving Tips from a Dr. Wife Also, be sure to spend as much time as you can with loved ones because intern year is going to be a new kind of beast you will have to conquer!
Let me be the first to congratulate you for making it this far! I hope you & your loved one Match to your top program and good luck on your medical journey!